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Reflections on our first series

The publication yesterday of episode 3 of The Unwelcome Visitor: “This Might Sting a Little”  concludes the first short series of the Blackhaven podcast.

As an experiment I think it has been a success in many ways, and we have learned much from the experience.  The cast – some of whom have never even acted in an amateur capacity before – have shown willingness and committment to their roles.  It is heartening to see their talents being released and revealed.  Perhaps all that is needed to create an imaginary  universe of strange characters is to give ourselves permission to “have a go.”

A sense of humour is essential to this project, and happily everyone in the team has entered into the spirit of the thing and had good fun doing so.  And we have been more than ably supported by the sound editing/engineering of Dave and Johnny at The Music Shed in Inverness.  I think it’s fair to say that the FX in particular have improved from episode to episode.  We keep raising the bar, which is as it should be.

As far as the music goes, my idea was to create 4 different themes for Blackhaven: a jaunty Intro that satirises the type of upbeat Scottish folk-musical crime I call accordionism; a Blackhaven theme song (“There are Monsters abroad”) – you hear me singing the last verse and chorus after the credits; a lyrical theme, and a sinister theme.

These themes with several variations are then deployed in appropriate places in the story as identifiers, links, and/or to evoke relevant emotional resonances.  I’ve used piano, organ(s), electric guitar(s), saxophones, etc to give particular flavours in different places. Marjorie Patterson (who also plays the part of Doris Macallan) has added a cello part to some of these.  Wonky dischord endings are another way of adding a humorous twist.  On the whole I think the music does the job well enough, though at times the pieces are perhaps too long for what is required.  I intend to work up some shorter riffs for the next series.  You have to have identifiable themes which are concise but memorable – and preferably musically enjoyable.  Variations mean the themes don’t become annoyingly repetitious.

The original artwork is another crucial part of the whole Blackhaven package.  Every podcast needs a visual design that evokes the style and content of the show, is eyecatching and recognisable.  Rosie Newman’s excellent image of the crow perched on the shovel over the hastily dug grave is a concise and effective way of illustrating the whole Blackhaven schtick – it’s funny, and dark but not too dark.  There are going to be murders, it says.  The full moon suggests something of the occult.  And the hand poking out of the grave says, there is going to be hilarious incompetence.

Another learning curve has been with regard to the pacing of the show – we can do better there I feel.  The dialogue could be delivered a bit more snappily at times.  Perhaps a bit of workshopping before we do the next series will be helpful there.

The only thing which I feel has been a real disappointment so far has been the sudden disappearance of Truly Scottish TV – who had been very keen to host the podcast, and indeed helped us in pre-advertising on their website.  Then mysteriously, a week before we aired the first episode, they went dark, and have not yet re-emerged.  I still don’t know what crisis may have supervened to cause this – they are not answering email or messages.  With their help we might have ten times the number of followers we do, but such is showbiz, I guess.

Anyway, onward and upward, as they say.  I have some possible leads to follow in terms of geting the word out about Blackhaven, and I’ll work on that this month, before Xmas takes over everyone’s bandwidth, including my own.  We are planning series 2 for March 2019, so meanwhile – try not to worry…

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